WASHINGTON — As farm bill conferees convened to begin the process of resolving differences between the House and Senate bills, the National Grain and Feed Association sent a letter to the conferees making recommendations regarding the commodity section and Conservation Reserve Program.
Concerning the commodity programs, the N.G.F.A. urged conferees to decouple farm income safety net programs from actual plantings. The N.G.F.A. noted that historically, when government commodity programs encourage planting that is inconsistent with market demand, it negatively affects markets, international trade relationships and the agriculture industry as a whole.
The N.G.F.A. in particular warned that “linking any type of farm program income supports to actual plantings ... could risk exposing the United States to potential trade challenges under the World Trade Organization.”
The N.G.F.A. also urged conferees to reduce further the C.R.P. acreage cap, while retaining language in the House-passed bill that would allow certain non-environmentally sensitive land to exit the C.R.P. before contract expiration without penalty.
Currently, the House farm bill would reduce the existing 32-million-acre cap to 24 million acres, while the Senate version would lower it to 25 million acres — both through a gradual, stair-step approach over a period of years.
The N.G.F.A. noted that the most recent C.R.P. general sign-up results reflected the continued trend toward increased planting of crops on land suitable for production in response to market demand. If sign-ups remain steady over the next five years, the N.G.F.A. wrote, the resulting acres enrolled in the C.R.P. would decline to less than 22 million acres.
Meanwhile, the penalty-free early-out provision in the House farm bill would allow C.R.P. contract holders to terminate their contracts in fiscal year 2014, provided the land meets specified criteria and has been enrolled in C.R.P. for at least the previous five years.